Will We Finally Tap The Learning Expertise That Is Present in Oft-Overlooked Communities?

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Since the dawn of time, humans have sought ways to improve learning. As our societies grew more complex, we moved beyond the simple tools of our hunter-gatherer past and into the world of libraries, books, and schools. While there is no doubt that these institutions have had a positive influence on humanity, with the growth of the Internet, we now have the potential to connect with a vast amount of information, people, and knowledge.

In the United States, the focus on education has been on what children can learn   in the classroom . But there is a growing awareness that there is a lot of learning that takes place outside of the classroom, and not all in the same ways, that is just as important as the classroom. As more people begin to recognize the important role that communities play in educating children and youth, educators and other stakeholders will be able to tap the expertise that is present in oft-overlooked communities.

Currently, there is talk of restoring education to address student learning loss, often with an emphasis on expanding summer study programs, tutoring at regular intervals, and expanding after-school programs.

This support is needed and should help the students who were hardest hit last year. But they are not enough to create the excellent, equitable, culturally supportive schools that families and students want. Parents and families, busier than ever this past year, have a wide variety of interests, wants and needs for their children. They want a wide and dynamic choice of schools, and educators and policymakers must respond.

The good news is that public charter schools have made progress in meeting demand: Nearly 70% of charter schools approved between 2013 and 2018 had a specific purpose, such as. B. Research-based STEM or double-speech models. The large number of different school models is not just found in a few federal states. This is true for all 19 states and the District of Columbia, where nearly two-thirds of all charter schools are located.

While the trend to create a wide range of different types of excellent schools must continue, the next challenge is to ensure that we intentionally build on the experiences that exist in communities, particularly those that are too often overlooked and undervalued, to create and sustain schools and models that work for students. Finally, some of America’s best innovations have come out of these communities.

Thus, black communities have a long history of innovation in American society. Charles Drew and the blood bank, Garrett Morgan and the traffic light, co-author Mark Dean and the IBM personal computer are just a few examples that have changed modern life.

There are also numerous examples in the field of education. Consider the Rosenwald Schools, founded by Booker T. Washington, which taught more than 700,000 black children in the American South in the 1920s and 1930s using the small school model. In the past, black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have also allowed black Americans to pursue post-secondary education and gain access to well-paying professions such as doctors, lawyers, legislators, etc.

Today, black, brown, American Indian, and other leaders of color continue to make breakthroughs in education in our schools: whether it’s creating child care spaces in the community, opening schools during a global pandemic, continuing a legacy of high quality and high achievement, schools striving to preserve the native language, or launching an online program on black culture.

This work, called innovation, freedom, autonomy or, as the sceptics say, privatisation, is about communities knowing what is best for their children and local conditions and being able to establish schools that educate and liberate young people well and meet the needs of their communities.

Ideas and approaches to transformational education are not limited to expensive private schools, nor should they be limited to charter schools (although charter education is particularly conducive to the development of such models). All communities and all types of schools can do this work, and those who manage our systems and structures should focus on pushing for change in communities that are often overlooked.

After COVID-19, there will be new ways to organize learning that we haven’t seen yet. In the face of an unprecedented influx of new federal funding, policymakers would do well to create a space where new schools and models can emerge and receive sustained support.

We also need to prioritize leaders of color and leaders with strong ties to the community. Introducing new ways of learning and ensuring community participation in decision making starts with taking into account who is part of the conversation.

Especially in light of recent evidence of systemic racism, more black, brown, American Indian, and other leaders of color have every reason to establish and build schools that educate not only black and brown students, but also multi-ethnic communities with new aspirations and demands for quality and equitable education.

America has an opportunity to harness the genius, creativity, and innovation that have always existed in communities that are too often ignored and undervalued, especially in the global majority communities that are at the heart of American education.

The question is whether our systems and structures will accept us.

Photo: Getty Images Signature, licensed from Canva.

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